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Documentarian Ken Burns says DeSantis bills are like ‘Soviet system’

Documentarian Ken Burns on Tuesday said the bills that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is advocating for resemble the “Soviet system” in deciding what students are allowed to be taught in a classroom. 

Burns said during an interview on “CNN This Morning” that the “suppression” of ideas, where those ideas might lead and facts is not what makes the United States “great.” He said the country’s greatness comes from who the American people are, how they investigate who they are and how they celebrate their diversity. 

“All of these bills that DeSantis and others are doing limit our ability to understand who we are, and they are not inclusive — they are exclusive. They are narrowing the focus of what is and isn’t American history. It’s terrifying. It feels like a Soviet system or the way the Nazis would build a Potemkin village,” he said. 

Burns’s appearance came after he posted a Twitter thread on Monday criticizing a proposed Florida bill that would prohibit public universities in the state from promoting, supporting or maintaining programs or campus activities that “espouse” diversity, equity and inclusion or “Critical Race Theory rhetoric.” 

DeSantis and other prominent conservatives throughout the country have railed against initiatives to promote diversity, equity and inclusion and critical race theory, which is a graduate-level theory that examines how race has played a role in the development of U.S. law and society. 

“By trying to dictate what teachers can and cannot teach, Florida House Bill 999 is an assault on the very liberties articulated by the Founders and something that all Americans should speak out against,” Burns tweeted. 

DeSantis has also faced sharp criticism from opponents for pushing for legislation like the Parental Rights in Education law, which restricts teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in certain cases. 

He told CNN that he is currently working on a series about the American Revolution, and the Founding Fathers would not approve of the actions that DeSantis is taking. 

“I can tell you that Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine and George Washington and John Adams and James Madison and Alexander Hamilton are rolling over in their graves if they think that this person is carrying the mantle of what it is to be American,” Burns said. 

He said DeSantis and others are reacting to issues that challenge the idea of a “neat, tidy, white picket fence” view of society. He said the world is complicated, and race is “in everything we touch.” 

Burns said Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, declared that “all men are created equal” but also owned slaves. 

“Our whole story is based in a discussion in race along with the meaning of freedom, and that’s complicated too,” he said.

Tags Critical race theory diversity equity and inclusion Ken Burns Parental Rights in Education Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis Thomas Jefferson

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